WE ENVISION A WORLD FREE OF DISCRIMINATION IN WHICH ALL PERSONS ARE EMPOWERED TO LIVE AUTHENTIC LIVES TRUE TO THEIR IDENTITIES, WITHOUT FEAR.
USE OUR VOICES, STRENGTHS, AND INDIVIDUAL GIFTS TO CREATE ENRICHING MUSICAL EXPERIENCES; PROMOTE INCLUSION, EQUALITY, AND EMPATHY; END HOSTILITY TOWARD MINORITY POPULATIONS; AND BETTER OUR WORLD THROUGH COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS.
THE APPALACHIAN EQUALITY CHORUS STORY
In 2017, KGMC traveled to Washington D.C., to participate in the National March for Equality, and in 2018 the Chorus embarked on a regional tour to Chattanooga, Nashville, and Kingsport, raising money for local LGBTQ+ organizations at each stop. The Chorus has collaborated with Nashville in Harmony, Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C., and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Our outreach partners include KnoxPride, Youth Prom, local Gay-Straight Alliances, and Positively Living.
In 2018, the Chorus revised its mission and adopted its first vision statement, renewing our dedication to being “Voices for Equality.” KGMC advocates and fights for visibility, recognition, and equality for all persons and now includes persons of all genders, gender identities, and sexualities. The “Gay Men’s” in our name remains to honor the legacy of the Gay Chorus Movement that began in the 1970s and expanded rapidly as a reaction to the HIV crisis. To say the words “Gay Men’s” was an act of rebellion, and an acknowledgement that these persons were present and had a voice. The Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus continues to evolve, shifting with the needs of the community. Through that community engagement, we continue the celebration of diversity in our amazing community. We strive to be an organization that identifies the needs our community, engages in dialogue to promote positive change, and affirm and uplift those among us who are most vulnerable.
Since one of KGMC’s earliest performances; the 2012 Breaking the Silence rally, where four men stood beside each other and gave the Knoxville community a taste of what was to come, the chorus has grown each year. In the fall of 2021, after two years of struggling through the COVID pandemic, KGMC returned with a resolution to empower others to join its mission. For the first time, the chorus offered an additional weekly rehearsal in Johnson City. Several of our dedicated members were already making the commitment to drive from the Tri Cities to Knoxville each week to rehearse and attend concerts and other events. The timing was right and the response to the additional rehearsal was extremely well received. It was during this same year that we were able to bring on new staff, expand our board of directors, and hire an assistant artistic director, Seth Tinsley, who will work with Dr. Stevens to drive the artistic vision of the chorus, will be conducting his first performance with KGMC for our 2022 fall season.
Through its tireless efforts, KGMC’s membership encompasses individuals not only from the greater Knoxville area, but as far east as southwest Virginia. It’s mission to serve the northwest Tennessee and southwest Virginia areas have made the organization one of the largest performing arts and equal rights organizations in the region.
Chris stepped down as artistic director in the fall of 2013 as he made plans to move out of the area. KGMC continues to be grateful for his tireless commitment during this formative time. Chris, along with the founding members, are to thank for fostering the very mission KGMC continues to this day.
Freddie Brabson was appointed as the second artistic director of KGMC. Under his leadership, the Chorus grew to nearly thirty members. It was during this period that KGMC achieved another milestone in their journey as they were now in a position to utilize the historic Bijou Theatre as a concert venue. It was also during this time that KGMC began performing annually at the Rossini Festival. Freddie resigned in January of 2015. KGMC is thankful to Freddie for his guidance in overcoming the challenges of exposing what was a very new group of singers to a larger audience. Former accompanist, Matthew Mimbs, graciously agreed to serve as interim director, taking on the ever-increasing responsibilities, while the organization began its search for a candidate whose personal mission, vision, and values aligned with those of KGMC.
Dr. Alan Stevens, Director of Choral Activities and Coordinator of Vocal Music Education at East Tennessee State University’s School of Music, was hired as artistic director in the summer of 2015. Under his tenacious leadership the organization has consistently experienced rapid and explosive growth every season. In July of 2016, KGMC traveled to Denver, Colorado, to perform for the GALA Choruses National Festival. This event, held every four years, brings together LGBTQIA+ Choruses from across the world to perform and network. KGMC’s performance at this international event was wildly celebrated by those in attendance. This was a pivotal moment for the chorus as it solidified its place among similar organizations dedicated to excellence in artistry and a mission to advocate for the queer community on an international level.
Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus is now the Appalachian Equality Chorus.
Since our founding, KGMC has grown with members traveling from as far away as North Georgia, Southern Virginia, and Chattanooga. We now hold weekly rehearsals both in Knoxville and the Tri-Cities to provide a home for more of our Appalachian community.
Beyond geographic diversity, KGMC’s membership includes a wide diversity of singers. Bisexual, transgender, and ally members have become a significant part of our representation on stage–adding their voices to ours.
Finally, KGMC’s board, our staff, and our artists have for years included women. Their voices add daily to our song enabling KGMC to reach more people, represent more perspectives, and accomplish more good.
The Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus has now, for more than a decade announced to the world both in name, song, and action that the gay community not only lives in Appalachia but that we thrive here. We’ve created a safe space for our members and our patrons, speaking up with a message of love and acceptance.
KGMC endeavors to broaden our umbrella to embrace more of our community and to create that same safe space for everyone regardless of sexuality or gender. With women’s rights, trans-rights, and gay rights all under attack, KGMC is seeking to live our own mission by broadening ourselves to be more inclusive. As we rebrand as the Appalachian Equality Chorus, KGMC embraces all of our members and patrons across Appalachia. We outwardly recognize the invaluable contributions made by those of all sexualities and genders to our mission and vision.
As the Appalachian Equality Chorus, we will continue the same mission and better represent all of our community. We hope you will join us. Become a singer, dancer, performer, board member, volunteer, donor, sponsor, or patron–all are welcome in our family.
OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM
Dr. Alan Stevens
CALLING ALL TENORS AND BASSES
Do you want to join the Appalachian Equality Chorus? We are holding auditions in Knoxville and Tri-Cities.
Prepare a one minute excerpt of any song that shows off your best vocal ability, or you can do a series of vocal exercises with the artistic staff. Rehearsals take place every Monday from 6:30-9:00 at the designated locations. No appointment needed — just show up any time between 6:30-8:00.
Location: Church Street United Methodist Church — Enter at the doors closest to Henley St. on the Cumberland Ave side of the building.
Parking: Use the lot at the top of the hill on the Cumberland side of the building.
Location: Mathes Hall on the ETSU Campus — Use the main entrance to Mathes Hall
Parking: Park in any lot.